In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court had blocked the Trump Administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as an “arbitrary and capricious” change. Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by the four liberal judges, ruled that Trump’s decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act. It was another self-inflicted wound due to a poorly executed policy change in this area. The ruling is based on procedural failures, not the merits or the underlying authority.
Chief Justice John Roberts was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The majority ruled that
“the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”
In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, wrote that any such errors were irrelevant because the underlying policy was facially unlawful”
“Under the auspices of today’s decision, administrations can bind their successors by unlawfully adopting significant legal changes through Executive Branch agency memoranda,. Even if the agency lacked authority to effectuate the changes, the changes cannot be undone by the same agency in a successor administration un- less the successor provides sufficient policy justifications to the satisfaction of this Court. In other words, the majority erroneously holds that the agency is not only permitted, but required, to continue administering unlawful programs that it inherited from a previous administration.”
What I find the most interesting is PART IV where Roberts was supported by only three justices (with the omission of Justice Sotomayor). That section rejected the use of President Trump’s public statements as proof of racial animus. The language rejects such reliance by lower courts, particularly the Ninth Circuit.
None of these points, either singly or in concert, establishes a plausible equal protection claim. First, because Latinos make up a large share of the unauthorized alien population, one would expect them to make up an outsized share of recipients of any cross-cutting immigration relief program. … Were this fact sufficient to state a claim, virtually any generally applicable immigration policy could be challenged on equal protection grounds.
Second, there is nothing irregular about the history leading up to the September 2017 rescission. The lower courts concluded that “DACA received reaffirmation by (DHS) as recently as three months before the rescission,” 908 F. 3d, at 519 (quoting 298 F. Supp. 3d, at 1315), referring to the June 2017 DAPA rescission memo, which stated that DACA would “remain in effect,” App. 870. But this reasoning confuses abstention with reaffirmation. The DAPA memo did not address the merits of the DACA policy or its legality. Thus, when the Attorney General later determined that DACA shared DAPA’s legal defects, DHS’s decision to reevaluate DACA was not a “strange about-face.” 908 F. 3d, at 519. It was a natural response to a newly identified problem.
Finally, the cited statements are unilluminating. The relevant actors were most directly Acting Secretary Duke and the Attorney General. As the Batalla Vidal court acknowledged, respondents did not “identif(y) statements by (either) that would give rise to an inference of discriminatory motive.” 291 F. Supp. 3d, at 278. Instead, respondents contend that President Trump made critical statements about Latinos that evince discriminatory intent. But, even as interpreted by respondents, these statements—remote in time and made in unrelated contexts— do not qualify as “contemporary statements” probative of the decision at issue. Arlington Heights, 429 U. S., at 268. Thus, like respondents’ other points, the statements fail to raise a plausible inference that the rescission was motivated by animus.
The decision is already being misrepresented as a ruling on the merits or a rejection of the underlying claims of illegality. It is not.
Here is the opinion: Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California